02-Jan-2005 -- Unvisited confluence points are few and far between and seem to remain so because of the degree of challenge. To have one lurking on your doorstep, just 56km from your place of work, is a temptation too hard to resist.
This expedition was the second attempt. The first, a month ago, had ended 12km away from the CP, close to sunset, after the radiator got staked and disgorged the entire contents, at which time the temperature was still high (40°C) and morale was on the low side.
The good news was that the breakdown occurred walking distance to a water bore. The bad news was that in such a remote location, nearly one thousand kilometres from civilisation and pollution, a very dead horse (and an army of flies) lay close by, the tool kit was missing and communication with the outside world was difficult. But necessity is certainly the mother of invention. With ear plugs used to fill the holes in the radiator and a refill with bore water, we made it safely back.
Maps of the area, detailing the minor tracks, tend to be outdated and therefore unreliable so, using the information gained from the first attempt, we were able to use the most direct route to the bore.
Peter Allen, Daniel Martin, Peter Kleins, Alasdair Bulloch and Susan Allen set out from the Plutonic Gold Mine around 3.15pm on Sunday 2 January 2005. It was 38°C and storm clouds were gathering in the direction we headed. After some 12km of gravel road and a 25km stint along the Great Northern Highway we turned left into the gravel access road leading to the Three Rivers Station homestead, the only habitation in the area. Some 15km from the homestead we turned right along an easy-to-miss gravel track and followed this for 20km arriving in the vicinity of the bore (and memories past!).
At this point, there were no tracks and still 12km to reach the CP. We continued on in the cars, wending our way through and around the low scrub and trees. Progress was slow but it was important to get as close as possible before setting out on foot, to leave enough daylight to be successful.
At 5.10pm we could drive no further and started to walk the remaining 6.1km with lightning in the distance and thunder overhead. The Australian outback late in the day needs a new word to adequately describe it. The softness of the light, the harshness of the climate, the unchanged topography, the earthy tones, the lack of lush green – the fine balance between life and death – “beauty” does not quite do it.
So with all of the above, we reached the CP at 6.30pm and knowing that we would be walking the last kilometres in darkness (and thankful for the wonders of a GPS), we did not stay long. There were no specific distinguishing features at the CP other than it is situated in flat pristine country at an altitude of around 600m (we forgot to check this at the CP) surrounded by low scrub, a few trees and Spinifex.
As we walked back, it gently rained a little, cooling things down to 35°C, the sun set magnificently and darkness slowly fell. (It should be borne in mind that it is reasonably inhospitable country around there – with a Japanese tourist dying less than two weeks beforehand whilst on a track in the Mt Augustus National Park – 230km to the north-west.) We reached the vehicles about 7.45pm and started our way back, navigating through the bush for about 20 minutes, exclusively by GPS, until we reached the track. There were numbers of kangaroos bounding out from the darkness, which were mainly safely negotiated, except for one, which was unavoidable. We arrived back at camp at around 9.30pm. This CP was a challenge and at this time of year, one to be undertaken with good planning, safety precautions, plenty of water – and ear plugs.